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Put a face on your AI

Combining human and artificial intelligence provides the best of both worlds.

March 29, 2023

While artificial intelligence (AI) is an excellent tool to reduce risk, heighten digital experiences, and improve member service, it can’t mimic empathy and human connection.

That’s why combining human and artificial intelligence provides the best of both worlds, says Nadine Hohnke, marketing manager at Public Service Credit Union, Romulus, Mich.

She addressed the 2023 CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Conference Tuesday in Orlando.

The pandemic provided the impetus to adopt AI, Hohnke says, and the results haven’t disappointed.

“While it’s a huge investment in money and time, AI frees up employees to focus on more complex tasks and build relationships,” she says. “AI is continuously learning and growing. Every project should be better than the one before.”

It does fall short in three ways, Hohnke says:

  1. It’s not one-size fits all, because members are all different and have different needs.
  2. It lacks empathy and human connection, which is especially important in financial services. “Talking about your finances is one of the most vulnerable things you can do,” she says.
  3. It can be too efficient. “It doesn’t always give us the opportunity to losses into wins,” Hohnke says. For example, if an angry member calls to close an account, AI can do this automatically, which is efficient but not prudent.

    “That wouldn’t provide an opportunity to save that interaction. We need creativity and flexibility,” she says. “Not everything has to be an automated experience.”

Public Service injects humor into some AI applications to humanize the digital experience. The credit union loaded its chatbot, Mia, with dad jokes to connect with members.

“It makes the financial conversation less scary, and it’s a great way to humanize your credit union,” Hohnke says. “Don’t be afraid of humor. You can use it in chatbots, email, text, social media, and on your website.”

In return, AI improves the human experience by pointing to best courses of action and product recommendations, while allowing humans to make complex decisions, she says.

It also can improve the employee experience by providing real-time recommendations for live agents, reputation management, and data to guide conversations with members.

Other AI best practices include:

  • Incorporating sentiment intelligence: teaching the language and text used about your credit union in all channels and translating them to emotions. This allows credit unions to spot negative attitudes toward their products and services, empowering them to make changes and address issues in real time.

    “It’s like having a private detective everywhere,” Hohnke says. “If someone refers to you in positive, negative, or neutral ways, we’ll know through sentiment intelligence. It’s an important capability to have.”

  • Knowing when to step in and find balance. You can’t rely solely on AI for member interactions. Members must know they can reach a person when needed.

    “You can’t have one size fits all,” she says, adding, “AI is the ideal credit union employee—it also wears many hats. Let’s make it one of our own.”